The word “mindful” has become a regular word in many people’s vocabulary and I’ll be the first to admit that as an Edmonton doula, I use it often. Meditation has completely changed my life and I’ve felt compelled to share why with everyone I know, but especially with those about to birth a baby because it’s such an incredibly useful tool! So what’s mindfulness? What’s meditation? And why are the linked to each other? Let’s dive in shall we?!
I first came across the idea of mindfulness before really honing in on how to meditate. I’ve been someone who’s struggled a lot with stress and anxiety in the past and once I caught wind of this natural way of alleviating these symptoms I was intrigued. In all honesty I did not think I was a good candidate for meditation – as a doula in Edmonton and a mom, I can barely find time to take a shower most days and I’m also quite high-energy. So even 5 minutes alone in peace is hard to come by! However the idea of being mindful through everyday life seemed reasonable. I adapted strategies of being always aware and in the present moment so that I could target the precise moment when stress and anxiety were beginning and prevent further emotional damage. Of course after practicing this for some time, I wanted to go deeper and it was at this moment that I realized the difference between mindfulness and meditation. Often these words are used together and while they come from the same group of principles to live your life by, they mean very different things!
Meditation and Pregnancy
If I could only give you one piece of advice as an Edmonton doula, it would be to meditate everyday. Start out slow, 5 min or less, and gradually work up to 30 min daily as you get better. The purpose of meditation is to strengthen mind power which is EXACTLY what you need for your birth… birth is 98% mental! An analogy for you all is thinking of your mind like you would your physical body. Just as if you wanted to run a marathon you would run everyday, if you want to strengthen your mind you need to meditate everyday. However it’s for a different reason than “exercise” – it’s actually the opposite! The only way to strengthen your mind power is by giving it time to rest and process emotions that still exist deep within your psyche. And do you know when your mind rests when you don’t meditate? Almost never! Other than a short period right before you fall asleep at night, your mind is always going (yes, even when you are asleep). So for those of my Edmonton doula clients who I instruct to “focus on your breath, nothing else”, this will make way more sense and become much easier if their minds have been strengthened through out pregnancy. Mind power is an evidence-based comfort measure that works no matter where you are or what stage of labour you are in!
Mindfulness and Birth
Now I’m sure there are some very skilled meditators out there who actually may achieve a meditative state while having intense contractions, but for those of us who aren’t there yet switching over to mindfulness may be a more realistic tool while in labour. There are 5 elements to mindfulness that you can use as you work your way through your birth. The first element is simply stopping whatever you are doing/thinking. By stopping your current thought processes, you open yourself up to new directions. Step two and three are observe and describe the feelings you’re having, and then step four and five are ensuring you are not judging or reacting to what you are feeling. So to sum up, you need to approach each contraction one at a time and acknowledge the sensations each one is giving you, but have neither a negative nor a positive opinion of it. Mindfulness is a way to live your life, whereas meditation prepares and strengthens you for living life. They both are important, but very different in concept!
Find a Teacher/Guide
Many people, myself included, embark on the journey of mindfulness and meditation on their own. This is fine to an extent, but once you become stronger or hit a wall, only an experienced teacher can help you progress along this path. While one day I do hope to extend my Edmonton doula scope to provide meditation coaching, I’m not there yet in my journey. But if you are looking to get a base knowledge on these principles please reach out and I can direct you to some resources!
Have you ever used mindfulness in a stressful situation in your life? Where you successful in combatting this? Share your experiences below 😊